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Author Topic: Media election strategy?
Member # 945

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I found this interesting.


Oh, let's just admit it: John McCain is a long shot. He's got a heroic personal story, and being white has never hurt a presidential candidate, but on paper 2008 just doesn't look like his year. And considering what's happening off paper, it might be time to ask the question the horse-race-loving media are never supposed to ask: Is McCain a no-shot?

"never supposed to ask"?

It gets more explicit:


Then again, history also suggests that Democrats don't blow out Republicans; there hasn't been a Democratic landslide since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. It's also unwise to underestimate the hunger of the media for an exciting race. If Obama emerges as a big front-runner, it's a good bet that the press will air more of McCain's attacks.

...so it's a good bet that the media makes choices about what to air in order to try to close the [perceived] gap in an election?

That doesn't mean that anything's probable. The media will try to preserve the illusion of a toss-up; you'll keep seeing "Obama Leads, But Voters Have Concerns" headlines. But when Democrats are winning blood-red congressional districts in Mississippi and Louisiana, when the Republican president is down to 28 percent, when the economy is tanking and world affairs keep breaking Obama's way, it shouldn't be heresy to recognize that McCain needs an improbable series of breaks. Analysts get paid to analyze, and cable news has airtime to fill, so pundits have an incentive to make politics seem complicated. In the end, though, it's usually pretty simple. Everyone seems to agree that 2008 is a change election. Which of these guys looks like change?
I'm a bit surprised at the blatant admission - from a major media publication, Time magazine, that fair/objective reporting and analysis isn't as much of a concern as boosting ratings and keeping people's attention. I mean, on the one hand, it's obvious that commercial outfits are primarily concerned about the bottom line. On the other hand, it seems like there's usually more of a pretense of being unbiased (although the bias that is usually disavowed is about political preferences, rather than financial).

I suppose it could be a sneaky attempt to convince people that no matter what they are hearing in the news, Obama really is the sure thing this year. (Although whose interests that message might serve is a question. The final sentence suggests the author favors Obama, but is turnout for Obama served by complacent anticipation of victory? Hmm.)

Or it could be this editorial represents a point of view that is supposed to be outside "the media."

I'm just a bit bemused by what seems to be one of two things:

1) An oddly detached perspective


2) Apparent obtuseness in admitting tweaking the news to influence public opinion in an important election for financial gain

[Edited to remove one of two too-adjacent usages of the word "concern"]

[ July 22, 2008, 01:19 PM: Message edited by: scifibum ]

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Member # 157

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I don't think it's a matter of money directly.

In the lowly reporters eyes it's just a matter of making the story interesting, exciting, and appear fair and balanced.

If some "news" comes out that paints one candidate extremely positively you've got to also find some counterpoint that looks at things another way ... no matter how contrived it might sound. That's being "fair and balanced".

In gaming blogs/news sites there are regular updates on how well the Nintendo Wii is selling. It used to be (paraphrasing) "Wow! the Wii is sold out everywhere. New reports state for the month of November the Wii outsold the Playstation 3 four to one. Sony spindoctor states they are not competing with the Wii. "I like the Wii. It's a fun toy...but it's a gimmick. We are selling something that will last."

Some positive "news" about the wii along with a counterpoint from Sony.

But month after month of that gets old. So when Sony comes out with a console-selling game and gets a bump in sales the reporters take note of that in the strongest possible words they can.

Instead of stating that this month Sony sold x00,000 more than usual which makes Nintendo outselling them by only 3 to 1 instead of 4 to 1 they make a headline, "Sony gaining on Nintendo."

Never mind how it's not actually gaining on someone when they are still outselling you 3 to 1...but how exciting does it sound to say, "Wiis outselling PS3s by a lower rate than usual"?

While exciting headlines can lead to more viewers and therefore more money, I'm not sure the writer is consciously thinking that far ahead. All they ever think is, "How can I make this more exciting?" ... at most they may also be thinking "...without lying or coming across as a shill or apologist."

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Member # 1860

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The editor ussualy IS thinking about revenue, though.

How likely is Sony to advertise in a magazine that routinely trashes the playstation?

If a race isn't painted as close, donations to a candidate drop, and so does their advertising budget.

When we're talking about hundreds of millions in advertising, it's no small consideration.

The bigger consideration is that they never know how things will break in the future, and we're talking about a media owned by major conglomerates who wants whoever wins to give them more waviers in order to allow continued consolidation.

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Totally. The media will always, always, always try to make a race it's reporting on look tighter than it really is, if it isn't tight enough to be interesting.
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This specific issue is part of the reason I'm no longer in journalism. The idea that every political contest has to be a horse race -- with a photo finish, no less -- is a terrible perversion of the media's duty to the people.
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